In the Bleak Midwinter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen snow on snow
Snow on snow
In the bleak Midwinter long ago.
Well that about sums up my feelings about January.
This is just the first stanza of a Christmas poem that has been set to music by several composers. My favorite arrangement is the one by Harold Darke. It's not too late to listen to Christmas carols; the season runs until Epiphany. Seek out some of the less well known carols (one's you're not sick of hearing), such as this one, and take time to just enjoy the music of the season without the worries about shopping, baking and other distractions. Cheers!
For other Garden Blogger's Muse Day entries, visit Sweet Home & Garden Chicago.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
5. Campanula 'Sarastro'
This plant just kept reblooming this year. It even formed a bud, albeit a frozen one, in time for November Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. This plant is named for a German nursery, which I suspect is named, in turn, for the Magician/Sorcerer character in Mozart's Opera "The Magic Flute" (Die Zauberflote). This is my favorite opera, which is one reason I chose to put C. 'Sarastro' in my garden rather than the similar C. 'Kent Belle.' Maybe I should do a whole "Magic Flute" themed area and get Anemone 'Pamina' to plant with 'Sarastro' (although a plant named 'Tamino' would be more appropriate), interplanted with some 'Queen of the Night' tulips. But I digress.
4. Clematis 'Silver Moon'
This Clematis has matured to yield over 20 blooms on a relatively short plant in partial shade. I couldn't ask for a better show. I think I'll reward it by getting it a real trellis on which to grow.
3. Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'
Although I lost one of the three plants this year, the remaining two performed very well this year. Blackberry Wine bloomed non-stop from the middle of April through the middle of August, and did not go dormant after that. What a fabulous little plant, and fragrant to boot! Of course you have to practically drop to all fours to get whiff, but once in a while it's worth it. I wonder if the new chartreuse-foliaged form 'Berry Exciting' would be too over the top?
And now, drumroll please, in a tie for top honors, two similar looking flowers on very different plants: Anemone 'Andrea Atkinson' and Anemonella thalictroides.I've already gushed about this plant ad nauseum. It just outdid itself this year in height and floriferousness. At the opposite end of the size spectrumthe diminutive Anemonella had its best year ever in the garden. I can't tell what concatenation of weather events caused it not to go dormant this year, a thing that has never happened in my garden. It started blooming at the beginning of April, survived the freeze, and kept on blooming until the end of June. In addition to this pink-flowered form, I have the standard white and a blush-colored double. Anemonella is my favorite plant; I'm so glad that it likes my garden.
*Apologies to John Cusack
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Just in time for Christmas, the snow melted to reveal the Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). Also visible, but not living up to its name, is the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) in bud.The buds of H. niger always tease, looking as if they'll open in just a few days. Every year they just sit there sulking until about March, when they finally burst into bloom. The melting of the snow also revealed the foliage of Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside Strain.'
It always amazes me how a couple of days of above-freezing temperatures can make such a difference in the garden.I can't imagine where Ladybugs go when there's a foot of snow on the ground. (Yes, it's alive.)
As if to make up for its complete lack of blooming last spring, the Witchhazel (Hammamelis 'Sunburst') is already showing color in its buds, coaxed nearly into bloom by the recent warmth. Don't worry, Sunburst, all is forgiven.
Monday, December 24, 2007
I didn't take a photo of the fallen arbor because I was too distressed and not quite fully awake. I was out there in my PJs and robe getting the arbor back up. Amazingly, neither free-standing trellis fell. I chalk that up to the rebar pounded into the ground on either side of each trellis and attached by velcro. At least I've got these decadent confections of my own devising to cheer me up, "Little Balls of Comfort & Joy."
They're chocolate and booze - what's not to like?
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The Lamest of the Lame:
Goatsbeard. It used to bloom, but over the past few years, it has dwindled. This year it barely sent up foliage.I can't even see it in this photo. I guess the soil is just too well drained, even though I planted it at a low point and directed the rainwater from the roof at it. Being next to a greedy Cottonwood probably didn't help either. This is a candidate for assisted suicide.
Bergenia 'Bressingham White.'
No blooms at all this year. Usually the flowers get frost damaged. The April freeze also didn't help these plants. They barely had any of the usual red Fall color. They got moved to a less conspicuous location where their foliage provides a foil for frothy flowers.
Actaea/Cimicifuga 'Hillside Black Beauty' and 'James Compton.' I've had both of these longer than 'Black Negligee,' one of which managed to bloom this year. I don't know if 'HBB' and 'James Compton' need to mature or to be moved.
Other floral no-shows:
Hammamelis 'Sunburst' decided to take a year off. It has bloomed well before this year, and I noticed it has lots of buds formed ready for next Spring. At least I could still enjoy its Autumn show.
The native Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra canadensis). This has been a happy plant in previous years. I don't know what happened. Too much competition from the Asarum candensis?
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer.' Summer never even got started this year. I think the culprit was that April freeze, as I had already uncovered it.
Iris siberica 'Orville Fay.'
I don't know what happened to old Orville. He used to bloom. Maybe he needs dividing. Or had he been divided recently? I'll have to check my journal.
Clethra alnifolia 'Not Ruby Spice.' I got this two years ago and discovered, when it bloomed, that it was not 'Ruby Spice,' but probably 'Rosea.' It's probably too dry where the Clethra is planted.
Peony suffruticosa 'Ofujinishiki.'
It bloomed for the first time last year with one blossom. This past summer it also had only one blossom, but it did suffer some damage from ComEd's oafish tree manglers, who had to come out last winter because a branch broke off a box elder onto the power lines. I'm hoping that, with maturity, the tree peony will provide more than one outrageous bloom.
Clematis Henryii used to be a good bloomer. I've had it for a long time, and its blooming has declined.
It got divided and moved to the back of the garden.
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Penny Mac.'
This plant has been in the garden for a couple of years longer than H. 'Endless Summer.' Maybe that's why it managed to eke out a single bloom this year after the damage from the April freeze. It usually has adequate bloom and even a couple of reblooms, but I'm sure it would perform better if the soil were moist.
Well, that's the roundup of the year's bad performances. If I get over this nasty cold, I'll do a post on the top performers of the year here at Squirrelhaven.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
This month's topic for Garden Blogger's Design Workshop is one on which I could use some help. A garden needs some kind of enclosure, either a hedge, a wall or a fence as a background and frame for the garden. When I bought this property, I was looking for a fenced yard to keep my two dogs in. The fence is also very helpful in keeping critters like rabbits out. The old adage goes "Good fences make for good neighbors," but my fence isn't a good fence anymore.The fence has not been replaced yet because I can't decide if we should try a fake wood fence or simply put up another wooden stockade fence.
Most of the fences enclosing Squirrelhaven are not mine. The chainlink fence belongs to the homeowner's association on the other side.
Nearly all of the stockade fence backing the woodland garden belongs to the next-door neighbors, while the slatted fence belongs to the other neighbors.
So what I have is three different fences, one of which needs replacement.
The stockade fence was here when I bought the property. When I added a gate, I decided not to stain it so that it would blend in with the old fencing. As this photo shows,
the weathered fencing fades into the background during the summer. If the old fence were to be replaced with fake wood, it would not be as unobtrusive. However, the composite material fencing would last longer. I dread having new fencing installed, as some plants will be trodden on by the fence installers. Any replacement fencing would have to be solid, rather than slatted, to keep out the rabbits, who slip into the yard between the slats.
Another problem is the chainlink fence. To describe it as not attractive is a vast understatement. I have allowed a wild grape to grow on it to camouflage it during the growing season.
I would put a more appealing fence in front of it, but we enjoy the view of the pond. As a partial solution, I planted Thuja occidentalis at the south end of the fence, where screening is needed.
I just don't know what to do about the center section. Eventually, all those Box Elder trees (Acer negundo) will be removed, as they are growing into the powerlines.
So, should I replace the old stockade fence with a composite-based fence, or with more stockade fencing? Or should I get a better grade of wood fence and stain it dark gray? Should I put any sort of fencing in front of the chainlink fence or leave it as is? Any suggestions?
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
With an accumulation of snow in excess of six inches, the gardening season is officially, completely, finally over here at Squirrelhaven. Beneath this white blanket the garden will sleep.
Or will it? Frequently, after the first heavy snow melts, on a warm day in January, I will find fresh looking foliage on the Columbines. Also under the snow, the giant Snowdrops (Galanthus elwessi) will be sprouting and sometimes blooming.
I probably should have put down the shredded leaf mulch before this snowstorm, but I wasn't sure that the ground was frozen enough. It's been almost a decade since I put the mulch down before Christmas, as we've had a string of warm Novembers and Decembers. Once this snow melts, then I'll put down the mulch. In the meantime, the chickenwire cages stand ready for the leaves to protect the Hydrangea macrophyllas and the tree peony. Hopefully, this year I'll learn to hold off taking the mulch away from the Hydrangeas. Maybe.
Monday, December 3, 2007
A few weeks ago, Layanee posted about how the birds relish the fruits from her 'Prairiefire' Crabapple. I also have a 'Prairiefire,' but the birds never get the chance to sample the fruits. The squirrels have staked out the crabapple as their territory. Over a week ago, the gray squirrel my children named Crabapple harvested all of the easy to reach crabapples from the tree. To get to the remaining fruits, Beggar had to engaged in some squirrel acrobatics. I find this rather entertaining. What is not so amusing is that when the only remaining fruit is on the tips of the branches where that fat squirrel can't reach, it clips off the branches to get at the fruit. Then I have to prune those clipped branches to remove any stub ends. Too bad squirrels don't care about proper pruning practices.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
This morning the temperature rose to the upper 40s (it's supposed to drop rapidly this afternoon), so I got out in the garden to try to finish putting it to bed for the winter. That means chickenwire, and lots of it.
Although I already sprayed the young trees and shrubs with critter repellent last week, a second line of defense is always a good idea. It might not be the most attractive way to do it, but it's generally effective against the rabbits.
I also started to put up the Christmas decorations. It's definitely time to get rid of the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Harvest pumpkins. This large squirrel (Beggar) was so intent on eviscerating my son's pumpkin that it didn't care that I was working out front. My husband was even able to open the front door to snap the photo. It can have all the pumpkin it needs to fatten up for winter; we don't need them anymore, and it was fun to watch it pigging out. (Of course I'm not thrilled about scraping frozen bits of pumpkin off the front porch.) Welcome to Winter at Squirrelhaven.